Tidying up the coastline

It’s long been an absurdity of the Wine of Origin Scheme that it contains a region called Coastal which includes some undeniably inland areas like Tulbagh and Paarl. It was particularly absurd when it also excluded some propertly coastal areas, like Walker Bay. The latter part of the problem was resolved when the authorities suddenly came forward with a new region called Cape South Coast, including everything from the Overberg, through Walker Bay, all the way along to Plettenberg Bay (see my report on it here).

Now there are some further useful regional ideas from the Demarcation Committee of the Wine and Spirit Board. They have been this week discussing them (I haven’t heard yet of any outcomes of their meeting).

On the table was a proposal that, according to the Board’s ever-communicative and efficient Director of Regulary Services, Andre Matthee, would involve “the demarcation of two new regions ‘Cape Coast’ and ‘Cape West Coast’. These regions will replace ‘Boberg’ and ‘Coastal Region'”. The map he sent illustrating the new regions is given below – I hope it’s clear enough. (If you want to look at a map of the districts – the areas that make up the regions, like Stellenbosch, Paarl, and Tulbagh, you can find one on the Sawis website, here.)

There are some obvious questions unanswered. Among them, what happens to the bits of Swartland and  Tulbagh that aren’t included in the Cape West Coast and Cape Coast regions? They will surely have to be in some region. Also, Boberg is only a region for the increasingly unimportant category of fortified wines – surely this strange idea is not going to be perpetuated under a new name.

Clearly these are only rough ideas that the Committee has been discussing, and let’s hope they come up with some useful new categories.

But to get away entirely from the absurdity of the present “Coastal Region” idea, they will not be able to allow the “Cape Coast” region to include Paarl, or the Cape West Coast region to include Tulbagh. These are emphatically inland areas, not coastal at all.

The Board invited comments on their initial proposals and I enthusiastically offered some, making the above points. I suggested that Paarl and Tulbagh should become part of a “Cape Inland” region – possibly also including Olifants River.

It would be a great pity if the Board did some more re-jigging of the boundaries of the regions without resolving all the obvious problems – notably the misleading declaration of some inland areas as being “coastal”. Let’s hope they do well, building on the excellent start of establishing the Cape South Coast region.

This might all seem abstract and uninteresting stuff to many, and admittedly it’s not as much fun as gossip and sensationalist allegations. But if we are to take the idea of origin seriously in South Africa, and make more winelovers alert to the real differences involved, then we must get the larger areas (regions) correctly designated, as well as the small ones (the wards – like Durbanville, Elgin, Cederberg).

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